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Refugee Communities Would Welcome More Engagement with Police

The 10 month long project delivered by Race Council Cymru was funded by Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert's office and looked at ways of identifying and engaging with emerging and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities across Gwent.  The aim is to help improve the communities' trust and confidence in Gwent Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.  
  
The findings will be announced and discussed today during a special event organised by the Commissioner's office in conjunction with Race Council Cymru as part of Refugee Awareness Week. The 'Your Voice Matters: Engaging with Ethnic Minority Communities in Gwent' event in Newport will be attended by nearly 80 representatives from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and groups from across the region as well as representatives from Gwent Police.
  
As part of the project, a Community Engagement Development Worker (CEDW) was appointed by Race Council Cymru last year to immerse herself in grass roots engagement in communities and in the areas of Gwent where there are emerging communities. The aim was to gain a better understanding of the areas in which people were living and the issues affecting BAME communities; in particular in rural areas of Gwent, newly emerging communities, or otherwise so-called 'hard to reach' communities. The intention is that the project will improve channels of communication; achieve a better understanding of neighbourhood policing and of the work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
  
As part of the project, the Development Worker linked in with a range of communities in Gwent including Turkish, African and African Caribbean communities in Torfaen; Nepalese, Gypsy/Traveller and Syrian communities in Caerphilly; Ahmadiyya Muslim women, Sudanese women and African Women's Forum in Newport; and an Iraqi/Kurdish group of men from across Gwent who regularly meet up. To further inform the project, the Development worker also hosted specific events, visited English classes for learners, places of worship across multiple faiths and attended numerous BAME events.
  
The project has produced a number of key findings which will now be used to inform the Commissioner and Gwent Police as to how they can improve engagement with these communities.

According to the project:

  • More engagement with BAME communities should be encouraged to establish and improve communication practices in order to build trust and confidence;
  • The greatest and most immediate need for on-going engagement is with newly arrived and emerging refugee communities in Gwent. During interviews, a number of refugee women highlighted a range of issues which affect them including vulnerability; lack of awareness of available services and access to those services; communication difficulties and trust in the authorities;
  • In certain communities the report highlights that it's important for the police to establish a channel of communication with women in BAME groups specifically to reduce isolation or exclusion;
  • Community engagement events would be more successful where there is existing engagement with the communities. The holding of stand-alone events is likely to result in less people attending;
  • Relationships need to be formed, maintained and ongoing trust built - with neighbourhood officers attending venues, by prior appointment, where community groups are regularly meeting. Frequently, people from BAME communities request a regular, familiar point of contact within neighbourhood policing. This is seen as vital to improve trust and confidence;
  • In some areas BAME people do not wish to draw attention to their own ethnicity by attending community events or belonging to support networks, in particular where they may be one of a few BAME individuals in their neighbourhood or workplace;
  • People are more encouraged to attend community events and if they feel they will gain something from the experience and many people would feel more comfortable engaging digitally via social media than face-to-face;
  • Open communication is vital to building trust and confidence and understanding of the police service and the OPCC. That communication needs to be two-way and in a form understood by all parts of the community. Miscommunication with communities can occur for a variety of reasons such as language difficulties, cultural differences, previous experiences and understanding of each other's requirements. All of the above need to be considered when engagement takes place.  

Some people interviewed by the Development Worker in Cwmbran also explained that they had regularly experienced hate incidents and crimes, including verbal abuse, bullying, and physical assault. However, they did not report those incidents to the police because they did not think the incidents would be serious enough to bother the police with; they feared not being believed or taken seriously and they view the police as being the last resort for anything but the most serious incidents.
  
Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert and the Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Jeff Farrar, have welcomed the findings and have promised to take action in order to improve trust and confidence between some of the hardest to reach and least engaged communities in the region.
  
Welcoming the findings, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, said: "It's important that we listen to what the public are telling us and we must always consider the requirements of all our communities, including emerging ones. This engagement project sends out a clear message that we want people's voices to be heard in Gwent and we want to break down barriers and engage with some of our hardest to reach communities. I am positive that this will be a catalyst which will help us build trust and engage with groups which currently feel underrepresented in the region. If any group out there feel they don't have any meaningful contact with the police or my office, then we want to know why and what can be done to improve this."  
  
The Chief Executive Officer for Race Council Cymru, Uzo Iwobi, said: "Race Council Cymru was delighted to be commissioned to undertake this important engagement initiative in partnership with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent.
   
We can see that some progress has been made by Gwent Police to engage with ethnic minority communities across Gwent. Our engagement project clearly identifies that more work needs to be undertaken in this regard to reach ethnic minorities communities in rural parts of Gwent. Race Council Cymru is committed to working with The Gwent Police and Crime Commissioners team to ensure that throughout Gwent the voices of BAME communities continue to be heard."
  
The Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Jeff Farrar, added: "We welcome any initiative that can support us to reach more of the people we serve in Gwent. Asylum seekers and refugees want to feel safe like everyone else and I am totally committed to ensuring that the Force does all that it can to support these communities.
  
During a recent police officer recruitment drive, we specifically hosted special awareness raising sessions with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities throughout the region with the aim of attracting applicants from a broad cross-section of society and to ensure that the makeup of the Force reflects the diverse nature of our communities."